Renowned San Francisco photographer Fred Lyon dies at 97

“And at 80, he started a career as a fine art photographer,” Meza said. “He passed away on his two book projects. Just in his April of this year, he published two of his books. Mine and he wrote another book, San Francisco.” , was the greatest contributor to the ‘portrait of the city’.

Fetterman said he had never encountered Lyon’s work until he saw an image called “Foggy Nights, Land’s End”.

“I thought I knew a lot about photographers and the history of photography,” said Fetterman. When he came across a “foggy night,” he said. With such a composition, I have to know more about him. ”

A black and white nighttime image of a man, woman and a car silhouetted in the fog.
“Foggy Night, Land’s End” is an image taken by San Francisco photographer Fred Lyon in 1953. (Fred Lyon/Peter Fetterman Gallery)


In a 2017 profile, yon told KQED’s Pat Yollin that he fell in love with photography early in his teens.

“The camera was a glowing object,” he said. “I knew a guy with a camera, and he always seemed to have a lot of pretty girls around him.

Lyon skipped two grades, graduating from Burlingame High School, apprenticing at a photo studio in San Francisco at age 14, and a year later attending the Art Center School in Los Angeles, where Ansel Adams was a teacher.

In a 2020 interview with Philippe Meza, co-creator of “California Look,” Lyon shared how Adams and a select few other students had a summer trip to his home in Yosemite. I remembered how I joined the He said from certain artistic tenets of Adams, such as Adams’ famous admonition, “There is nothing worse than a very vivid image of a very obscure concept.”

“I felt like I could never learn everything Ansel knew,” said Lyon. I never intended to be a landscape photographer. I always seem to have to include some human work in my work. Ansel was great and inspiring, but I didn’t want to copy what he was doing. ”

Lyon was a naval photographer during World War II and took a mission to the White House, where in 1944 he photographed the Christmas portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his extended family. He photographed President Harry S. Truman on his first day in office. In the Oval Office after Roosevelt’s death in April 1945.

After the war, Lyon returned to the Bay Area in 1946 after shooting fashion in New York City. But he had another idea.

Lyon told KQED in 2017, “Photography wasn’t really an honorable profession. It wasn’t a profession at all. Man.” You can take a peek into people’s lives.


Throughout his career, Lyon has been very busy getting a glimpse into other people’s lives.

“We looked at his work logs,” Rogis, who married Lyon 20 years ago, said on Saturday. There were all sorts of interesting people, from fashion to architecture to movies.It’s just amazing.He said,”Looking at these work logs makes me tired.”Daily, 2 There was more than one shoot. ”

Meza said Lyon aspired to be a photographer and has fulfilled that mission admirably, but never thought of himself as an artist.

“Nevertheless, he became one,” Meza said. “When something like Fred’s fine art photography is more than a generation away from the viewer, it retains these powers and is not merely a curiosity because it is antique. Rich empathy, curiosity, and intelligence.”

Two children slide down a steep street in San Francisco with cardboard boxes in 1952.
Street of children sledding down a steep hill, North Beach, San Francisco, 1952 (Fred Lion)

Fetterman says that Lyon stood out beyond the quality of his work as a person who embraced life and other people.

“He was a funny character,” said Fetterman. “He was like Cary Grant. He had the charm and manners and grace of another era. All of it was real.”

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